Bill Freas’s “Yellowstone Lake” is a genuine well of surprises! It is a multi-dimensional album that captures both the majestic national park landscape and opens a portal to a world of experimental music. It is rare, to say the least. I have had “Yellowstone Lake” on rotation for months and I still find new and extraordinary sounds on each listen. It is an innovative, playful, and very different kind of release. En route, you’ll find countless pleasurable moments and creative twists and turns.
Bill Freas is a composer, arranger, producer, and performer. He studied music theory and composition under esteemed, world-class composer/conductor David Osbon at West Chester University in eastern Pennsylvania. He has contributed to numerous projects and artists, live and in the studio, across many genres since the mid-1990s. Alongside his music-production company, Crazy Owl Entertainment, Freas also owns and operates its sister company, Crazy Owl Films, a film/TV production firm.
The album opener “Sunset Majesty” sets the tone for the whole album. As we arrive at the lake, the sun is setting, and one of nature’s most beautiful tableaus unfolds before our inner eye. The strings carefully indicate where the melody is going before trumpets and bells make this into something divine and extraordinary. I especially like the unpretentious nature of the piece. It is not Vangelis-like, but light and not to be taken too seriously. It is, in other words, a hint of what’s to come. “Incantation of the Elk,” though, is more in line with what one would expect from an album entitled “Yellowstone Lake”. It is a tribute to the proud and strong elk with a touch of magic. There are even some nice elk sounds in the opening and mid-section. Notice how the synth lead follows up on those sounds, almost as if the elk is singing! The percussions are great, too, inspired by Native Americans (who have lived in the Yellowstone Lake area since pre-historic times). There is a hint of melancholy here that makes the piece even more interesting.
Sample & find the album on your favorite streaming service:
Forest Rain Lullaby
Next out is “Forest Rain Lullaby”. It is indeed raining; it is pouring down, making the lake rise at a rapid pace. It is a delightful, two-part piece. First, there is two minutes long opening. It is a light and positive melody with a hint of smooth jazz. Then it stops, and we hear nothing but the rain. Then out of nothing comes the sound of a xylophone, and “Forest Rain Lullaby” continues.
“Hummingbird Takes Flight” is a rhythmic piece with a bird-like lead and a 90s club groove. It reminds me of Anthony Baskey’s “Aves”, which has been a fan favorite for years – “Hummingbird Takes Flight” is on par with Baskey’s music. Indeed, it is one of the finest pieces on the album. You can almost see the colorful hummingbird as it flies away. The “gliding” effect in the middle is ultra-cool! It contains so much life and movement. Bravo!
Violet Valley Chorale
“Violet Valley Chorale” is joyous and optimistic. There is even an angelic choir here, hence the name. The conclusion is breathtakingly beautiful. With “Fire Blessing,” we are right back in the meditative department. The flute sounds lonely, although the ending with crickets and birds is more vibrant. “Moonscape” is one of those surprises I mentioned above. It is a delightful techno tune with a danceable beat. Fans of Jean Michel Jarre and Clifford White will feel right at home. How does this fit with the “Yellowstone Lake” theme, you might ask? Well, anyone who has ever gazed at the moon can experience this kind of atmosphere, wherever you might be – including a national park.
“Waterfall Mantra” is a gorgeous New Age music piece! The running water, birds, and synths are beautiful beyond words. I also like the hint of improvisation. It gives the piece a nice flow. “On Wings of Eagles” continues where “Waterfall Mantra” left off, embracing nature and its magic creatures – including eagles – which the park is famous for.
However you thought this album might end, I can promise you that “Lakeside, in Stride” is not that. From Gregorian Chants a la Enigma to jazz fusion, “Lakeside, in Stride” is everything but boring. I’m not going to give any more spoilers; check it out for yourself!
In conclusion: Just like the real Yellowstone Lake, Bill Freas’ album always makes an impression. It is that kind of release you can give to a friend who never would consider listening to a meditation album but suddenly needs one. Its playfulness and crossover atmosphere gives it high appeal. I’m tempted to say that “Yellowstone Lake” reflects a modern view of nature. We see and experience nature, but technology and the online world are always within reach. In that way, the album might show the way for a whole new sound – a kind of “nature connected”. It is big words, I know, but it is all there on the album if you take the time to listen. “Yellowstone Lake” is, in short, well ahead of the curve. Highly recommended!